Greetings, readers! This week will have me reviewing my picks for standout cards for EDH from Magic’s newest set, Theros.
Theros brings the realm of EDH a whole bunch of new toys to play with, between thirteen new legendary creatures and a whole boatload of new additions to existing archetypes.
Having gone over the rares in the set, it’s really hard to peg down an arbitrarily large number of rares that can be categorized as “misses”. Sure, there are a lot of them that are “not good”, but for the first time in a very long time, it’s hard to look at some of the less flashy rares and mythics of the set and think “You know, I just don’t see it.” Theros just feels well-designed, if lacking in terms of power level. Building blocks for Standard have been laid out, and I’m interested to see where both Devotion and Heroic go as mechanics.
That being said, I want to break the tradition of this article series. Usually, I tend to review the sour apples, the cards that I feel didn’t deliver, before delving into the cards I feel really do pull their weight and are just plain awesome. I’m switching it up for my Theros review, as I feel there are so many good cards in this set for the format that I want to break down the top 10 cards without the legendary creature card type, and the top 10 legendary creatures.
Though the legendary supertype was a common theme in the land of gods and mythical creatures, Theros had a surprisingly high number of power players in the 99 just as well. A number of really niche rares popped up in this set that are actually key roleplayers in certain archetypes and overall very good cards for EDH.
#10 – Nighthowler
Nighthowler is a very interesting card in that it’s obviously a very pushed card. Bestow is a lot better than you’d believe at first glance until you realize that once the creature the Bestowed Aura is enchanting dies, it becomes its creature form again.
Nighthowler has a number of interesting niches. First, it’s very comparable to Bonehoard, but it has a few points that make it more powerful than Bonehoard. First and foremost, Nighthowler is a creature, therefore making it a target for all sorts of interesting tutors such as Worldly Tutor, Buried Alive and Jarad’s Orders.
Obviously, it fills its niche in – you guessed it – a Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord deck, as a powerful creature that can not only be sacrificed to Jarad for some pretty heavy damage, but can also turn your “I want to die” guys into pretty powerful threats, too. I considered it in Karador, not going to lie, because being 3 means that it’s a Sun Titan target, but overall, costing 3, being both a creature and an enchantment, and being a high-power creature means that there are a lot of good points to consider when looking over Nighthowler.
#9 – Spear of Heliod
It’s taken me a while to really get over my love affair for Glorious Anthem effects in EDH. Decks that want an effect like that lose really hard to Wrath of God, and when you topdeck the Anthem, it’s really terrible. On its own, the card just doesn’t do enough.
Enter Spear of Heliod, the card that changes all of that.
It’s no surprise the gods’ weapons are all decent in their own right, but Heliod’s spear is one of the better ones, allowing you to play politics extremely effectively by keeping 3 mana up at all times to zap whatever value creature your opponent just facerolled you with.
And let’s not forget — it’s still a Glorious Anthem at the same time, which is really great for the decks that want this effect.
#8 – Steam Augury
It’s no surprise to anyone I love permission-heavy control. When I play control, tapping out is rarely something I like doing. Keeping mana up at all times to counter whatever threat my opponents attempt to cast is actually an interesting mindgame I love to play.
So it should come as no surprise that I love buckets of card advantage at instant speed. Between Impulse, Blue Sun’s Zenith, and what has to be my favorite, Fact or Fiction, there’s a lot of really powerful plays I enjoy making just by drawing a lot of cards right before untapping, playing a land, and passing with a mittful and a boatload of mana.
There’s a lot of bias here, I realize, and while I really like the card, I do understand its narrow applications. That being said, the control archetype adores having cards like this to use in order to edge out opponents, so I personally welcome a card with this kind of power level, even if you’re the one making the piles.
#7 – Whip of Erebos
Whip of Erebos being on this list may confuse some, but let me give you guys a different angle to approach this from. A lot of people look at this and think “Reanimator! Cheat a fatty in!” In that scenario, you’re almost always going to want the creature you’re reanimating to stick around; something disgusting like Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur or Blazing Archon.
The Whip should instead, in my opinion, be viewed as a goodstuff card. Why not play it if you use your creatures just as a means to an end? Running the Whip is like running Sheoldred, Whispering One. You don’t necessarily have to be dedicating yourself to a reanimator-type strategy to make Sheoldred good, and this goes similarly for the Whip.
#6 – Abhorrent Overlord
Abhorrent Overlord, on the surface, seems a little weak, and definitely very win-more. Devotion can be a difficult idea to get behind, as it rewards you for being ahead on board and in the case of the Overlord, can run you right into a well-timed sweeper that will spell doom for your resources.
What sets the Overlord apart from its ilk is the sheer power level of the card, and how much pressure it provides on its own. There are a number of really powerful synergies with the card, from flicker to mass pump to Skullclamp to enchantments like Necropotence and Dark Prophecy. By itself, it makes 8 power in the air for 7 mana, and once you get past 10 power it starts to get pretty insane. Just don’t underestimate this card whether it’s backed by Phyrexian Arena or Intangible Virtue is all I’m saying.
#5 – Bow of Nylea
Bow of Nylea does a lot of things. On one hand, it stacks up poorly against its predecessor, Primeval Bounty. On the other hand, it does a few different things from the Bounty. For one, it gives your army deathtouch as long as they’re in the red zone, making it an obvious powerhouse in decks bent on making sure its creatures connect. Nobody will ever want to block deathtouch guys, especially if they’re of the token variety.
For two, it hits fliers, which is relevant for things like Kira, Great Glass-Spinner and whatnot.
For three, it fights graveyard hate pretty well, giving you four (!) cards back into your deck from your grave, which can really save you in a pinch if you rely on your graveyard as a resource.
#4 – Ashen Rider
While I’m a bit less hyped for the ushering in of our new Angel of Despair as I was when it first got spoiled, let me tell you – Ashen Rider is the real deal.
Flickering, recursion, or sac outlets – you can do some pretty powerful things with the Rider, and for that reason alone, it’s this high on the list. Being able to exile is extremely huge, because of how resilient some decks are built to be. Being able to target anything gives it flexibility, which is the true benchmark of a powerful card. Overall, I still think Ashen Rider’s a fantastic creature and a key tool in strategies like Karador, Ghost Chieftain or decks that rely on Debtor’s Knell or white Sheoldred, Whispering One lists.
#3 – Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
Well, it’s no surprise to anyone that this would end up on the list somewhere. The comparison to Cabal Coffers is pretty simple to make, though unlike the Coffers, Nykthos doesn’t (yet) have a best friend akin to Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth to unlock its true potential.
That being said, Nykthos is undeniably very powerful. Unlike the aforementioned Cabal Coffers, Nykthos functions on its own when you can’t make returns on its devotion mana, tapping for colorless on its own. That alone makes it coast by when it’s not straight-up winning you the game.
When you can make returns out of it, though, it’s absolutely absurd. Adding to that, it can produce more than one color of mana, and it happens to fit in a lot of mono-color strategies in addition to more than a few dual-color ones, making it a powerful land no matter how you look at it.
#2 – Curse of the Swine
Bacon Wave is undoubtedly one of the most powerful sweepers printed in recent years. For one, it exiles only what you want it to, making it Plague Wind in almost all situations where you cast it. For two, it exiles, which as I’ve stated before, is a million times better than destruction in an age where chucking Sun Titan or Sheoldred, Whispering One in a deck make you a graveyard deck.
Sniping key creatures is an incredibly powerful play, one that can’t be ignored. It’s obviously restricted by its mana cost in clogged board states, but it’s still one of Theros’ best cards, and definitely a card you want to consider, and the card only gets better the less access to sweepers you have.
#1 – Prophet of Kruphix
There are restrictions that apply to both forms of what this is functionally reprinting, being that it doesn’t untap artifacts and doesn’t give noncreatures flash, but let’s be honest, Seedborn Muse is used most in blue decks anyway, so just untapping your lands every turn is big enough game that makes this card an auto-include. Not to mention if you’re Edric, Spymaster of Trest or Maelstrom Wanderer, decks that inevitably want to cast a bunch of creatures but are constrained by their mana.
In short, it doesn’t need a lot of discussion or thought behind it – Prophet is far and away the most powerful card of the set in terms of EDH, and a near-universal powerhouse in any deck that can play it.
Now we move onto the legends of the set. Between gods, crazy multicolor legends, and even some powerhouse monocolor legends, there’s plenty of power to cover. Let’s get right into it!
#10 – Hythonia the Cruel
Hythonia is an interesting case of comparisons. The obvious thought here is “I want to play this with a Cabal Coffers/Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth combo.” When looking at her, a strange but sensible comparison to make is to Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief, a card that uses mana to kill creatures and grow larger to threaten general damage.
One thing to note about the power of Hythonia is that while you can’t all-in their only blocker and deck them for 21 very quickly like with Drana, the activation clears their field and gets Hythonia to the sweet spot of 7, where three hits will kill anyone. Add to that that the activation is a modest 8 mana and we have ourselves a real contender here.
#9 – Medomai the Ageless
Medomai is very much a hit-or-miss thing to me. I feel that if I’d kept the tradition, Medomai would have ended up on the misses list, but there’s a lot of potential for Medomai to make really fascinating plays.
Medomai’s ability to repeatedly Time Walk allows you to run a tapout-style with big things like True Conviction and Drogskol Reaver while at the same time running disruption spells such as Capsize and [card]Render Silent[card], letting you tap out on the turn you connect with Medomai to play your big threat, then on your extra turn playing draw-go to hold up disruption or counters. That alone warrants its inclusion on the list.
#8 – Polukranos, World Eater
I very much enjoy the idea of Polukranos as a powerful “ramp yourself stupid” general. Being able to sink your entire mana pool into eating entire board states just feels incredibly powerful. Adding to that that it makes general damage a very real possibility, I feel Polukranos makes for a very potent mono-green general.
#7 – Heliod, God of the Sun
My opinion on Heliod is very simple; he plays very poorly as a token aggro enabler, but he plays absolutely superbly as the win condition of a control shell, letting you sit on just him to make a slowly-building army you can overwhelm entire boards with.
But let me reiterate – he’s not good in aggro. Paying 4 mana for 2/1 vigilance tokens is very slow overall and doesn’t create nearly the pressure that casting a Conqueror’s Pledge does. As long as you understand that he has much more merit when you’re thinking of the fact that you have a good manasink rather than “lol omg token general so gud”, then you can use Heliod to the best of his ability.
Hint: That almost never amounts to Heliod needing to be a creature.
#6 – Triad of Fates
Triad of Fates has a number of really interesting functions. The first and most hilarious is their interaction with Oblivion Stone. The second is how well it functions as a flicker general in colors not typically attributed to the archetype. (They literally printed a BW legend that flickers – think about that for a second.) The third is how well it removes key threats from the board. The fourth is how it functions as a slow, but steady Skullclamp on its own in B/W token shells.
There’s a lot of flexibility and paths you can take when building a shell for the Triad. Whether you’re flickering Rune-Scarred Demon, using Sorin, Lord of Innistrad to draw 2 cards nearly every turn, or just using it as a Stax/control general, the sheer utility the Triad has is impossible to ignore.
#5 – Erebos, God of the Dead
Erebos is an interesting case. It’s at the very least an indestructible Greed. Also, in black, it’s perhaps the easiest god to make a creature, between Dark Prophecy, Necropotence and Phyrexian Arena, which makes general damage a very real possibility.
Not letting your opponents gain life is a very useful ability when you combine it with certain spells like Devour Flesh, but it’s a bonus that can help keep opponents trying to survive aggro off kilter.
#4 – Tymaret, the Murder King
Tyarmet has a number of really interesting uses. For one, it gives players looking to abuse recursive creatures, who often get worse the more of them you play, and for two, it lets you combine them with powerful mana accelerants readily available to the colors.
Built properly, you’ll never have to pay more than 2 mana to cast him, and you can opt to Fireball opponents out every turn, or you can go for 21 general damage, being that he’s a 2-drop 2/2 creature that’s nearly impossible to permanently get rid of.
#3 – Daxos of Meletis
Okay maybe I’m a little biased.
I think Daxos is really good. The effect, despite feeling really…black, rather than blue/white, feels incredibly useful, and I’ve already thought of many ways to make it work.
I think I’ve gone over Daxos multiple times. I plan to again next week in my Let’s Build article for him, so I’ll save the in-depth review for then. Until then, just settle on my opinion that Daxos is very powerful and very useful.
#2 – Thassa, God of the Sea
Thassa is pretty big game. For one, being a pseudo-Sensei’s Divining Top on its own makes the card pretty damn powerful. Making any creature you control unblockable is also pretty big game whether your dorks or your bombs are the ones attacking.
When Thassa becomes a creature, the possibility of general damage is just inevitable at that point. 5 is a pretty bad spot to be, but you can always just run Caged Sun or Gauntlet of Power to get that extra point of power.
#1 – Purphoros, God of the Forge
This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. In 60-card or 100-card, Purphoros is absurd.
The difference between Standard and EDH is that in EDH, you almost never want to make Purphoros to be a creature. You can rely on artifact tokens from things like Myr Battlesphere or Precursor Golem to start burning opponents out.
In general, you don’t want to make Purphoros a creature, as it makes him far more vulnerable to spot removal. Red token spells and artifact tokens will do just fine, as it’s really easy to machine-gun opponents down very quickly.
And there you have it, my picks for the best EDH players of the set. Next week, I’ll return to the Let’s Build segment, focusing on Daxos of Meletis!
Check out my previous articles here:
Adapting to EDH Metagames:
Part 1 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1177
Part 2 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1252
Part 3 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1317
Part 4 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1370
Part 5 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1454
Building on a Budget:
Dragon’s Maze Prerelease Weekend:
Legen-Wait for It-Dary:
Part 1 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1606
Part 2 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1595
Part 3 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2214
Part 4 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2278
Part 5 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2303
Part 6 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2310
Part 7 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2323
Part 8 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2336
Part 9 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2341
Let’s Talk M14:
Planeswalking and You:
The Slippery Slope:
Trial & Error: